Undoubtedly Easter Sunday is the most important day in
the liturgical year. Indeed we celebrate all the other
Sundays as a weekly reminder of the fact that Christ rose
from the dead on this the first day of the week.
Each year when we celebrate Easter we try to recapture some of the joy that was experienced by the first disciples once they realised that Christ had actually risen. Of course, at first they couldn’t really understand what had happened; we know some of them initially believed that the body of Jesus had been stolen by grave robbers.
But very soon they remembered that Jesus had foretold that he would rise from the dead, but even realising this they were still completely and absolutely astonished when he appeared in their midst.
In the Gospel text for today St John tells us about a sort of a race between himself and St Peter as to who would get to the tomb first. They had been alerted by Mary Magdalene and started running to the tomb. There is a nice little interplay between the two Apostles; John gets there first but then holds back to let Peter enter the tomb in acknowledgement of his seniority.
Peter goes into the tomb and notes how the grave clothes were placed, but when John goes into the tomb it is he who is the first to believe.
This makes him the most reliable witness to the resurrection; this is the event that validates him as the author of his Gospel. He sees that the tomb is empty and he believes that Jesus has risen from the dead. This simple fact places him above all others and gives him absolute authority as the one who can tell the story of Jesus and what he achieved with the greatest authenticity of all.
Due to the great distance in time that separates us from these events we don’t have the privilege of being among the ones to see the empty tomb. Neither is it possible for us to experience the appearances of the Risen Jesus to the Apostles.
No our faith in the resurrection of Jesus comes about because other people have told us what happened. There were the original witnesses, namely Mary Magdalene, the Apostles and the other close disciples of Jesus. These passed the news on, they gave testimony to their friends and then to more distant acquaintances and so the news of the resurrection gradually spread far and wide, eventually coming down to us.
In our case it was most likely our parents who first told us that Jesus had risen from the dead. Seeing their faith in this wonderful event we take it on trust and we find that we can believe it too.
Belief in the resurrection is the very foundation of our faith, the stone on which it is built. Upon this single truth the other doctrines are constructed that make up the faith of the Church. These are not a set of fanciful notions but are rather the logical consequences and the working out of that greatest miracle of all, the resurrection.
It is from the resurrection that everything else flows: our belief in the Eucharist, our understanding of the role of the Saints and our faith in the everlasting life of heaven. There are many other doctrines that flow from these roots of our religion such as our belief in the Church and the power of the sacraments. Without the resurrection none of these concepts would mean anything at all.
As with the feast of Christmas, there are many accretions that have attached themselves to the Easter celebrations over the centuries.
I believe that the Easter Bunny owes more to folklore and paganism than to the Christian religion. Easter Bunnies are more of a fertility symbol than anything else and it is likely that their connection to Easter is due to the coincidence of it occurring in Springtime when fertility was celebrated in pagan times.
Easter Eggs make a bit more sense since they remind us of the stone which was rolled away from the tomb. I remember as a child we would go to a park on Easter Sunday and roll the eggs down a slope in imitation of the stone being rolled away from the tomb.
The prevalence of Easter Eggs is possibly also due to the fact that many people abstained from eggs as part of their Lenten Fast and once Easter came along they were able to be eaten once again. During Lent the eggs were often hard boiled to avoid spoiling; and once that was done it is not so difficult to understand that then they could be decorated as is often the custom in Eastern Europe today.
A more modern addition I suppose is the idea of a chocolate egg, perhaps this is inspired by our consumer culture and the desire for instant gratification. Of course, Easter is a time for great feasting and so I suppose chocolate eggs can be seen in that context.
A very common custom right across Europe is to eat lamb on Easter Sunday. Besides it being the right time of year for lambs to become available they represent, of course, Jesus who is the Lamb of God.
Whatever your particular customs it is very important to celebrate this great feast commemorating the resurrection of Jesus in the home. It is an especially good time for families and for eating a special meal together.
Just to go back briefly to the text of the Gospel, while I spoke earlier about the race between Peter and John I do not want to overlook the role of the very first witness to the resurrection, namely Mary Magdalene.
In her day women were not allowed to be witnesses in a Jewish court because it was thought that they were far too flighty and unreliable, only a man’s word could be trusted. Yet all of the Gospel writers tell us that Mary of Magdala and some other women were the very first witnesses to the resurrection. It is they who tell the Apostles that the tomb is empty.
This is an example of the veracity of the Evangelists; most other authors of the time would simply have omitted the presence of the women, they would have only regarded the men as proper witnesses and the women would most likely never have got a mention. To me this is more evidence, if any more were needed, of the truth of the Gospels in which even uncomfortable truths are not overlooked.
I think that this is also another example of how the Gospel constantly turns our accepted attitudes upside down. Women couldn’t give witness in purely human courts but here they are the ones who are permitted to give witness to things which are entirely supernatural. They can’t give testimony about the rights and wrongs of everyday life, but in the Christian dispensation these women are the ones who give the first witness to the greatest event that ever happened.
Women may be disregarded by men but not by God. Whatever sexism we might think we see in Christianity, make no mistake that there is absolutely none at its roots. Here it is God’s values that are given priority and not any merely human constructs.
The Gospel is always Good News; it is good news for men and it is good news for women. It is good news for everyone that Christ is risen and that new life awaits us all.
Digest of Articles from Catholics Blogs and Websites
April 5, 2015
Easter Sunday, Year B—April 5, 2015
Today’s Gospel describes an absence that confounds the disciples, preparing them for the Presence their hearts desire.
Gospel (Read Jn 20:1-9)
On Palm Sunday, the narrative of our Lord’s Passion ended with these words: “Then they rolled a stone against the entrance to the tomb” (Mk 15:46b). Jesus’ dead Body had been quickly prepared for burial, because the Sabbath sundown approached, and He was laid in the fresh tomb of a rich man. Then, for His followers, there was silence and utter desolation. We can only imagine how much “rest” they got on what must have been the longest Sabbath day of their lives.
Easter: Easter Flowers
The flowers! We come to Church on Easter and are overwhelmed with the beauty and fragrance of flowers. Here is an obvious question: Why flowers? Why do we fill the Church with flowers to celebrate Easter? The answer is far more than Easter takes place in the Spring when the flowers begin to bloom. There is a deeper meaning than that. The flowers signify the beauty of a world renewed. Easter celebrates the beauty of renewed life in Christ.
Celebrating Holy Week and The Triduum: RESOURCES for PERSONAL AND FAMILY PRAYERS AND DEVOTIONS
Sundown on Holy Thursday during Holy Week marks the beginning of three sacred days (Triduum) that changed the destiny of the human race. Few of us have sufficient time to make use of all the following suggestions for prayers during these holy days, but it would be a tragedy to let this season of grace go by without taking some time for extended prayer and reflection. So steal away for as much time as you can and let the Spirit help you pick and choose which devotions will best help you make the most of this special time. See also the other Triduum readings, prayers, and resources in the Lent and Holy Week sections of The Crossroads Initiative Library.
Spend This Week With Jesus – A Daily Chronology of Jesus’ “Last” Week
At the heart of our faith is the Paschal mystery: the Passion, death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus Christ. All of salvation history leads up to and goes forth from these saving events. The purpose of this post is to describe Jesus’ final week. We call this “Holy Week” because Jesus’ public ministry culminates with His suffering, death, and resurrection.
I Believe in Jesus Christ
To profess belief in the second person of the Most Holy Trinity carries with it unfathomable implications because full understanding lies rooted inconceivably beyond human reach in our eternal Creator. The Catechism elucidates the incarnation as we read: “we believe and confess that Jesus of Nazareth, born a Jew of a daughter of Israel at Bethlehem at the time of King Herod the Great and the emperor Caesar Augustus, a carpenter by trade, who died crucified in Jerusalem under the procurator Pontius Pilate during the reign of the emperor Tiberius, is the eternal Son of God made man. He ‘came from God’, ‘descended from heaven’, and ‘came in the flesh’ For ‘the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.”1 Such profound words constitute a poetic promise by those of us who utter them and compel us by the most strenuous efforts to apprehend (aided by the gifts of the Holy Spirit) who Christ Jesus is and what our belief in Him demands from us.
Does God Still Speak to Us?
I sat quietly; a little disheartened by a conversation I had just had. The person I was talking to told me that she didn’t believe God really talks to her. In fact, she wasn’t sure that He talked to anyone really. I felt a sadness creep into my heart for her. How could she believe that God doesn’t talk to her? How could she miss His voice when there are times I hear it as clearly as I hear my sweet little ones’ voices as they call out, “Mama!”?